The Spring Independent School District Board of Trustees adopted a 2021-22 operating budget at a special meeting on Tuesday that funds a general pay increase of 2 percent of the control point for all staff and lowers the proposed tax rate to $1.34 for $100 valuation.
The overall $433.6 million operating budget includes $339.6 million in general fund expenditures and represents a deficit of $19.9 million, which will be offset using federal funds related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Chief Financial Officer Ann Westbrooks attributed the deficit budget to the challenges resulting from the pandemic and declining student enrollment. The district’s projected enrollment for the next school year is about 33,240 students, down from a peak of 37,095 in 2014-15.
The adopted budget includes more than $6 million in pay increases and other equity adjustments that will better align Spring ISD salaries with surrounding districts. A study conducted by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) on behalf of the district in 2020 showed that Spring ISD’s compensation to teachers and other employee groups was less than surrounding districts.
Since the 2019-20 fiscal year, the district has sought to better position itself and has moved from the bottom of 16 districts for starting teacher pay to now in the top seven, tied with Klein ISD. During that time, the starting teacher salary has increased from $54,000 in 2019-20 to $57,425 for the 2021-22 school year.
Superintendent Dr. Rodney E. Watson said after the meeting that the budget represents an ongoing focus on keeping Spring ISD competitive with its peer districts.
“I want to thank our trustees for their continued leadership and commitment to supporting our staff in a tough budget environment,” Watson said. “Our goal with compensation is to always ensure we are in a position to recruit and retain talent across the district.”
On average, a teacher in Spring ISD will see a $1,225 raise. This year’s 2 percent pay increase is the third in as many years for staff. Last year, employees received a raise of 2.5 percent of the control point and the year before that, salaries increased by 2 to 6 percent, depending on position.
In addition to funding raises, the budget also lowers the proposed tax rate to $1.34 per $100 valuation, which is 4 cents lower than last year’s rate of $1.38 per $100 valuation. Over the past three fiscal years, the tax rate has dropped from $1.51.
For a home with a taxable value of $200,000, the tax bill would be approximately $2,680 for the homeowner. Westbrooks noted that although the proposed tax rate is lower, many homeowners in Spring ISD will likely have seen their values increase as a result of a robust real estate market. State law requires school districts to adopt a budget by June 30, but the tax rates aren’t formally approved until later in the year.
“The budget process continues to be more challenging each year,” Westbrooks said after the meeting. “However, our Board of Trustees and administration remain focused on doing what’s best for our students and ensuring that our staff have adequate resources to do their jobs.”
The $433,657,828 Total Operating Budget includes $339,600,007 in the general fund, $66,176,468 in the debt service fund and $27,881,353 in the child nutrition fund. The total proposed tax rate of $1.34 per $100 valuation is based on the combined 92 cent Maintenance and Operations tax rate and 42 cent Interest and Sinking tax rate, which is used to pay the debt service requirements on outstanding bonds.
Westbrooks noted that the Interest and Sinking tax rate is below what was projected when the 2016 bond was passed, which she attributed to a strong local economy and property value growth which continues to outpace that of the region and the state.
A public hearing was held prior to the board’s adoption of the budget.